RIP: AOL kills Netscape

AOL LLC Friday pulled the plug on Netscape Navigator, the Web browser that once owned the lion's share of the market and that was the focus of a landmark federal antitrust case against Microsoft Corp.

In an announcement posted to AOL's blog for the browser, Tom Drapeau, the director of the company's Netscape brand, said the team is ending development and would cease issuing security updates as of Feb. 1, 2008.

"Given AOL's current business focus and the success the Mozilla Foundation has had in developing critically-acclaimed products, we feel it's the right time to end development of Netscape-branded browsers, hand the reigns [sic] fully to Mozilla and encourage Netscape users to adopt Firefox," Drapeau said.

He said all support would end in just over a month and urged current Netscape users to migrate to Mozilla Corp.'s Firefox.

Netscape Navigator traces its lineage to 1994, when Marc Andreessen and Jim Clark formed Mosaic Communications Corp. around the Web browser that Andreessen had built. The first version, complete with name change to allay concerns by the University of Illinois over the Mosaic moniker, was released on Dec. 15, 1994.

By mid-1995, Netscape essentially owned the Internet, accounting for more than 80% of all browsers used.

Microsoft Corp., however, launched the initial edition of Internet Explorer (IE) in August 1995 and gradually whittled at Netscape's lead until IE's share slipped past the older browser at the end of 1998, according to statistics compiled by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the campus where Andreessen co-authored the first graphical browser, Mosaic.

In January 1998, Netscape Communications Corp. announced that it would cease charging for the browser -- in large part because Microsoft gave away IE -- and said that future development would be open-source. Inside a month, Netscape formed the Mozilla Foundation and handed the browser code to the open-source nonprofit.

Later that year, AOL bought Netscape in a deal valued then at US$4.2 billion.

The browser fell on hard times, however, and quickly lost what users it had to IE as well as the successor from Mozilla, Firefox. Last month, for instance, Web metrics company Net Applications tracked Netscape's browser share at just 0.60%, while IE owned 77.4% and Firefox accounted for 16%.

Netscape Navigator was also a focus of the federal antitrust case that began in 1998. When the court eventually ruled on the case, it said Microsoft had quashed its rival using illegal practices, including tying its free IE to Windows and bullying partners into not bundling Netscape with new PCs.

Drapeau's blog hinted at the frustration in keeping Netscape breathing, if only on life support. "While internal groups within AOL have invested a great deal of time and energy in attempting to revive Netscape Navigator, these efforts have not been successful in gaining market share from Internet Explorer," he said. "Recently, support for the Netscape browser has been limited to a handful of engineers tasked with creating a skinned version of Firefox with a few extensions."

Netscape will remain available for download from an AOL site that has not yet been set up, but Drapeau encouraged current users to move to Firefox. "The Netscape Team fully stands behind the fine work being done by the Mozilla Foundation," he said.

"We recommend that you download Mozilla Firefox and give it a try," Drapeau said. "We know you'll enjoy it!"

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?